Kahuku wins 27th OIA championship in the most Kahuku of ways
Kahuku running back Zealand Matagi (26) followed his blockers to pick up yards against Mililani. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
You can’t fault Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho for trying.
Early on this season, the Red Raiders were a mixed bag on offense. At times they were able to ground and pound opponents, but they also weren’t afraid to put four wide receivers out on the field and try to throw the ball around a little bit.
After three straight years of losing to Saint Louis in the state tournament, including twice in the championship game, Kahuku felt the need to become more dynamic on offense to try to hang with the run-and-shoot Crusaders, who have dominated the state of Hawaii since losing to Kahuku in the 2015 state final.
The results were mixed. They had some impressive wins over Timpview in Utah and Campbell at home, but in the showdown games against Mililani and Saint Louis, the end result was two losses by a combined score of 60-0.
Zero points in six quarters played against the defending OIA champion Trojans and state champion Crusaders.
That’s when the passing attempts dropped dramatically, all the way to the five Kahuku attempted in Saturday night’s 7-3 victory over Mililani in the OIA Open Division final at Aloha Stadium.
Kahuku (8-3) won its 27th OIA championship, and fourth in the last five years in the most Kahuku of ways. A dominant defense, a power running game that wore out the opposing defense, and that one big play they can usually count on from special teams.
It happened midway through the fourth quarter.
The game was scoreless for 42 minutes before Mililani’s Kaulana Navares booted a 24-yard field goal with 5:55 remaining.
That lead didn’t last 20 seconds as sophomore Kelsyn Tangaro-Kanoa, who broke off a 99-yard touchdown run on his first carry against Campbell last week, broke seven tackles on the ensuing kickoff to go 93 yards for a score to give Kahuku (8-3) a win over Mililani two months after getting blown by the Trojans on Kahuku’s home field, 32-0.
“I’m just so happy and proud for our boys. Mililani’s a great team,” Carvalho said. “Our kids were resilient. They hung in the game and they just finished the game. I’m so proud of them, from start to finish.”
Kahuku and Mililani have won every upper-tier OIA championship since 2007, when Leilehua took the prize.
After Kahuku’s touchdown, the defense forced Mililani to go three-and-out for the sixth time in the game.
Kahuku’s Zealand Matagi then ran out the final five minutes, picking up first downs on two long runs as the Trojans’ defense finally wore down.
Mililani had one last chance to stop Kahuku on fourth-and-2, but jumped early for a penalty to give up the final first down.
“We had the kick return to the house and we knew we had it from there,” Kahuku defensive lineman Zion Ah You said.
The teams combined for one first down on the first seven drives of the game. Kahuku had 98 total yards in the game to Mililani’s 100.
Trojans quarterback Brendyn Agbayani finished 11-for-27 for 70 yards with one interception by Kahuku’s Kaonohi Kaniho.
Matagi finished with 78 yards on 21 carries. Kahuku completed three passes in the game for 9 yards.
Just the way Kahuku likes it.